Clearing 2018: Seven things we saw on search

Clearing 2018: Seven things we saw on search

41,510 students have secured an undergraduate place through Clearing so far this year, and 132 universities have been battling it out to make their institution the ideal choice. Though for many, Clearing is far from over, the dust has settled from the mania of A-level Results Day, and our advertising team have had time to catch their breath and take a look at the trends and tips that emerged from search, that will help you to shape your Clearing 2019 strategy.

Searching for a Clearing Place

… I’ll do it later

This year, we saw a peak in searches at around 3pm, which is far later in the day than we’ve seen previously; in 2017 searches peaked at around 10/11am.

Perhaps this reflects the shift in Clearing being used as a trade up or a first point of application for students, as opposed to a last resort for those that didn’t get the grades; students are becoming more savvy and taking their time to carefully consider their options instead of rushing into a panicked decision.


Pre is key

Pre-Clearing campaigns are a great way to maximise your impact ahead of A-level Results Day. We found that our clients who ran search campaigns in the run up to Clearing benefited  from improved Quality Scores and therefore decreased CPC on the big day, and also had the advantage of running remarketing campaigns – which were a high generator of clicks and calls.

Another disadvantage of going live on the day of Clearing is a lack of insights (i.e. search impression share), but in these cases that’s where it was extremely useful to have our Google Account Managers on hand at Natives HQ.


Don’t underestimate Bing

With lower competition and cheaper costs, we saw some great results from advertising on Bing. Of course, the lower competition is reflected in the lower search volumes compared to Google, but consider this – Bing is the search engine used by devices such as Alexa and Cortana, and with voice searches on the rise perhaps it’s time to pay some attention to the little guy.


Let’s talk about keywords

Bing might have taken a sliver of glory, but let’s face it – Google reigns as King. This year, Clearing search terms became even more competitive, and therefore more expensive, than ever before (but we’ll come on to that in a minute).

Course specific keywords were the most expensive, but brand specific keywords were the most popular – which isn’t surprising when you look at the facts from the National Clearing Survey; 81% of students have previously heard about the HEI they ultimately end up enrolling at. This further highlights the importance of running pre-Clearing activity to get your brand in students’ minds before they begin actively searching for places.

And, while we’re on keywords, we’re STILL seeing ad spend being wasted on irrelevant search terms like ‘clearing my closet’ or ‘clearing my throat’. Don’t forget to set your negative keywords!


Hey big spenders

One surprise how expensive some search terms would be this year – particularly keywords relating to business and law. The average cost-per-click increased YOY by up to 20% at peak times, and prices remained higher for longer, meaning institutions may have found that the cost per acquisition had been higher than expected.


Clearing on a shoestring

Those with smaller budgets are best staying out of the ‘bloodbath’ of bidding on highly competitive search terms, and should instead focus on their own niches. Small budgets may even be most wisely spent on pre-clearing activity, which will collect the data of lots of engaged students to remarket to on the day of Clearing. Remarketing campaigns saw high click through rates, emphasising the importance of investing in long term strategic thinking.


Call tracking

In such a competitive marketplace, it’s important to understand the effectiveness of your advertising in real time so that you can make informed decisions to optimise your strategy, stay ahead of your competitors and maximise your budget. Choosing our instant call tracking technology over the platform’s own call tracking will enable you to instantly see how your ads are performing, and make the necessary steps to improve them.

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 10.46.29Still got Clearing places to fill? Download our Student Marketers Guide to smashing Clearing campaigns this summer for some last minute inspiration.


Looking to stand out on search? Net Natives are a Google Premier Partner and our Google certified advertising team are on hand to create a killer search strategy to help you cut through the noise and recruit more students. Get in touch to find out more.